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The Tour Report

March 15 2013

8:19 PM

First Look: Arnold Palmer Invitational

Tiger Woods goes for his eighth title next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
(Little/Getty Images)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

• FIELD: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard

• COURSE: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, 7,419 yards, par 72. The 1961 Dick Wilson design was proclaimed the “best course in Florida” when Arnold Palmer first gave it a test – spurring him to eventually buy the place. Palmer has tinkered a lot over the years, but appears satisfied with a makeover now set to host its fourth edition. The closing trio of holes often produces a dramatic finish, including Robert Gamez’s stunning 7-iron hole-out at No. 18 to overtake Greg Norman in 1990.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: The Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation, which underwrites both the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. A neonatal unit in need of expansion spurred Palmer to begin earmarking proceeds from his tournament for a new facility. Since 1987, the event has generated more than $16 million for the campus.

• FIELD WATCH: FedExCup champion and current points leader Brandt Snedeker, not seen since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, heads the list of challengers trying to keep Tiger Woods from an eighth Bay Hill crown. World No. 5 Justin Rose and No. 10 Phil Mickelson also help provide Arnie’s Place with 13 of the top 20 in this week’s world rankings. The field also features eight of the PGA TOUR’s 11 winners thus far.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Payne Stewart (1987).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Andy Bean (2nd round, 1981), Greg Norman (2nd round, 1984).

• LAST YEAR: Woods brought his drought to an emphatic end, pulling away on the weekend for a five-stroke romp over Graeme McDowell. A closing 70 was good enough for Woods’ seventh victory at Bay Hill – matching his personal best at any venue – and first since the 2009 Australian Masters. Woods took a one-stroke lead into the final round, but quickly grabbed control after McDowell’s opening double bogey. McDowell faded to a 74 as a blustery final day left no challenger able to break 70.

• STORYLINES: Another victory by Woods would match Sam Snead’s PGA TOUR record for most wins in a single event. Snead captured eight titles at Greensboro, his last coming in 1965 at the age of 52. A third victory in 2013 also would lift Woods back atop the world rankings, bumping Rory McIlroy to No. 2. … Snedeker, whose first five starts produced a win, two runner-up finishes and a third, returns after a five-week layoff to rest a rib injury. He still leads the FedExCup race, 177 points ahead of Woods. … British Open titleholder Ernie Els, twice a winner at Bay Hill, returns after a week off to rest a hip ailment.

• SHORT CHIPS: Lee Westwood, now a Florida resident after moving to West Palm Beach during the winter, will make his first Arnold Palmer Invitational start since 2008. His only top-10 finish in 10 previous starts there came in 2006. … Just four international players have won in 34 years at Bay Hill -- Els (1998 and ’10), Rod Pampling (2006), Vijay Singh (2007) and Martin Laird (2011). … This year’s lineup features 132 players, up from 120 in a one-year move to create more playing spots during a shortened season. … Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox will make his second PGA TOUR start on a sponsor exemption. He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.

• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (GC), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC).

• PGA TOUR NETWORK: Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. ET.